Step 1: Evaluate the Situation
Maybe it only looks like neglect. Look more closely at different times of day.
Maybe the food and water bowls are kept inside, away from bugs and freezing temperatures. Maybe your neighbor goes to work at 3 a.m. and feeds the dog then. Maybe there’s a dog door you can’t see.
Here are some sure signs of animal neglect:
Animals need protection from the elements while outdoors to ensure their welfare and well-being.
Collar too tight
Not increasing the size of a collar as an animal grows causes injury, strangulation and death.
Lack of grooming
Without regular grooming, a pet, especially a long-haired one, can get massive matting and sores.
Mange, caused by tiny parasites, leads to itching, loss of hair and sores from scratching and biting to relieve the irritation. Mange is easily treated with medicated baths.
Starvation is caused not only by lack of food, but also by improper food, untreated disease and parasites (like worms).
Step 2: Report Animal Abuse
If you witness animal abuse or neglect, report it to your local animal control, law enforcement or humane organization. If these authorities agree that there’s the possibility of neglect or abuse, they will investigate and decide how to help the animal.
Owners often neglect their pets because they don’t understand their pets’ needs. Humane officers help by explaining how to correctly care for pets. But some owners neglect their animals because they just don’t care. When confronted by a humane officer, these owners may decide to give up the animal instead of being bothered with properly caring for him/her.
If the pet is seriously unhealthy or obviously abused, the humane officer may take him/her into protective care during the investigation. If charges are brought against the owner, you can offer to testify or sign a complaint. In the case of violent abuse, witnesses are rare, so you may be the only person who can testify about the incident.
Humane officers try to respond quickly to complaints, but get a lot of calls every day and can’t always respond the moment you call. If you’re concerned for the animal’s immediate safety, tell the officer or call-taker.
Don’t try to rescue a pet from a potentially abusive or neglectful environment yourself. Not only is this illegal and potentially unsafe, but you haven’t stopped the owner from getting another pet to abuse, or helped turn him into a caring, responsible owner.
Step 3: Understanding the Law
Anti-cruelty laws vary from state to state, and sometimes from city to city or county to county. The legal definitions of abuse, neglect or appropriate conditions may differ. The penalties for animal abuse may also differ.
Fortunately, society has begun to recognize animal abuse as part of the cycle of violence and is calling for stronger penalties against abusers and more powerful enforcement capabilities. As a result, many states have added felony penalties to their anti-cruelty laws.
If you have questions about how the case will progress through your legal system, talk to the investigating officer or read the laws yourself.
Understand that once you have reported potential animal abuse or neglect, the investigating officer may not be able to discuss the specifics of the case with you. But that does not mean he’s not working on it.
Step 4: Help Prevent Animal Abuse
The key to preventing neglect is education. Many owners just aren’t aware of how important affection is to a pet or even that a puppy can outgrow her collar.
The key to preventing abuse is stronger anti-cruelty laws — laws that empower effective enforcement and include harsh penalties. Serious penalties can inhibit cruelty and, with the addition of counseling as a penalty, can stop the incidents from being repeated by offenders.
You can help prevent these cruel acts by informing others about what to do if they see such an act or by helping them to better understand how to train and care for their pets.
To do this you can:
- Schedule a speaker from your local humane agency to talk at your church or any clubs you belong to. Do the same for any children’s groups, like scout groups, day-care centers, and schools.
- Set up a brown-bag lecture series at your office, conducted by a humane agency, on pet care, basic behavior solutions, and animal welfare issues.
- Get pet care and behavior pamphlets from your humane agency to distribute to any of your coworkers or friends with new pets.
- Put together packets of treats and a pet-care book or video to give to friends who’ve just gotten a new pet. Include spay/neuter information, tags, and a vaccination record book. Obedience lessons make a great gift for a new puppy.
- Support any initiatives to strengthen your state’s anti-cruelty laws.
- Write to your paper and TV station whenever animal cruelty stories appear. Tell them you support strong penalties for these abusers.
- Contribute to or volunteer at your local shelter, where they must deal with these appalling situations regularly.
Now when you see a neglected or abused animal, you can take action. Don’t hesitate. Your call could save a life.